CPAC 2013: Did the GOP Deliberately Ban Gay Republicans?


The GOP claims to be reassessing its image, but the exclusion of conservative gay rights groups from the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC ) says otherwise. Given the role the gay community played in securing Democratic political victories in 2012, the GOP should seriously reconsider its stance. Moreover, the unfounded dissonance the concept of the "gay Republican" invokes should force liberals to look more closely at sexuality and political parties.

GOProud, a co-sponsor of the CPAC in 2010 and 2011, was "kicked out" in 2012 and according to co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia, this year "nothing has changed." The other group, Log Cabin Republicans, was not explicitly banned, but they had "no plans to participate in CPAC this year." They recently drew media attention when the organization ran an ad in the Washington Post attacking Chuck Hagel for offensive remarks he made in 1998 about a diplomat being "openly, aggressively gay." Such comments are reprehensible, but the ads also followed the Republican line of attacking his stance on Israel and Iran. LGBT activist Rick Jacobs derided the ads in an op-ed piece:

"And let's be clear about one thing: no one trying to derail his nomination attacks his qualifications. Instead, they seek to score political points and/or act at the behest of powerful special interests by denying the president his choice as defense chief. This sort of political jockeying disgusts the public, further erodes public faith in Washington and weakens our country."

But one might ask: what do gay rights groups want with from Republican Party? The answer is simple: inclusion. The goals listed on the GOProud site include: Tax reform, spending cuts, fighting global extremism, respecting states’ rights, "respecting the proper role of the judiciary," and supporting the Second Amendment. Along with these goals, Log Cabin Republicans are working to highlight abuse of homosexuals by "authoritarian regimes renowned for supporting terrorism." When discussing the economy, they provide a quote from Reagan about keeping taxes low and restraining government.

Given the ideological backgrounds of the members of gay Republican groups, it’s no surprise that their members are pushing for a louder voice in the GOP. The problem though, rests on the issue of marriage: both GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans are working to repeal DOMA. Their opposition stems from states rights and support for strong family structures.

While some Republicans recognize public opinion about same-sex marriage is changing, others, particularly in the Tea Party, continue to use taxpayer dollars to defend DOMA, despite the fact that it has been ruled unconstitutional. More inclusion may open doors to wider marriage rights, which on its face would benefit both sides of the aisle. Of course, we can expect this expansion to be limited to the state level, which carries its own set of problems.

At that, I’d like to draw upon an article by Professor Michael C. LaSala and comment on same-sex marriage in America. Presently, nine states and the District of Columbia have extended the institute of marriage to their LGBT citizens. They now have access to major legal and social benefits of which other Americans are deprived.

Careful consideration of this draws attention to a system of social control that privileges and legitimizes certain types of social relationships at the expense of others. This critique has been absent from the mainstream LGBT push for same-sex marriage. By encouraging the belief that the institute of marriage is a barometer for equality, we run the risk of rehashing the not so old adage: "the president is black, racism is over." One would hope that no LGBT activist wants to hear: "gays can get married, homophobia in America is dead."